Toronto-based Tumblr user 2jam4u, Jam Wilson, has recreated the term Shine Theory through a hashtag that has created a space to celebrate achievements of Women of Colour (WoC). This revolutionary decision to create a healthy relationship between all women, trans women, non-binary women, and gender fluid individuals, has allowed for a celebration of not only the collective, but the individual. Jam spoke to RATSmagazine about how the Shine Theory began and where it is today.
RATSmagazine: How did the term Shine Theory begin? When did you start using the term?
Jam Wilson: So basically Shine Theory was a term coined by this white journalist lady named Ann Friedman and to her it meant that “I don’t shine if you don’t shine.” Basically she was saying that women surround themselves with successful women to… make them[selves] want to be better. Which sounds pretty self absorbed to me and [sic] reaked of the competitive nature that's forced onto women as a part of our gender role. My friend introduced it to me and I tweaked it a bit to fit my mentalities of other women.
After I went to Afropunk 2014 last summer, I picked up this awful habit; every time I saw a woman I thought was better looking than me, had better style, or I plain just thought was better than me I'd say, "I ain't shit!" I started a tag "I ain't shit" on my blog filled with just such women. After a while I was confronted with how jealous and self deprecating it was.
This is when I adopted the idea of my Shine Theory "one woman shines, all women shine." If one woman looks amazing, she's a direct reflection of women as a whole and uplifts us all. One woman's accomplishments benefit all of us. Her triumphs are our triumphs. We should celebrate her individually and as a collective.
RM: Did you begin using the term in person or on Tumblr?
JW: I think it was kind of simultaneous. As I started talking about it in person, I changed my tag on tumblr. I stopped tagging amazing, talented, beautiful women with "i ain't shit" and started using "Shine Theory". And that's when the questions started.
RM: How was it perceived by the public?
JW: A lot of people are really confused about it, but... [once] I've explained it to them, it immediately caught on. I've yet to hear of a person who doesn't absolutely love the idea. It's so revolutionary, right? Instead of participating in the jealous, competitive and mean natured interactions between women, we've chosen to reject that and celebrate women who are doing well!
RM: When did it catch on? How is it being used currently on social media?
JW: I honestly didn't know how big Shine Theory was until one day I was blogging and I went to tag Shine Theory and it was listed in 'popular tags.' It's so amazing to me to see so many women subscribe to this truly revolutionary and healthy mentality. I don't even care about being credited with it or people saying "Oh yeah, Jam started Shine theory," I'm just really excited about the fact that women are openly celebrating other women!
One time my friend, Amandla (Stenberg) told me she put "Shine Theory" in her description on Instagram and all I could think of was "Wow, now so many other women are going to seek out what Shine Theory is and hopefully participate! This reach is absolutely amazing!"
RM: Is Shine Theory confined to Tumblr?
JW: I truly don't think so. I acknowledge it's beginnings and the force it has on Tumblr but I'm really hoping that people allow it to infect their daily habits. One (good, I think) habit I have is to tell random women on the street when they look nice, particularly black women. I think it's really important that we, as women, vocalize our encouragement and support for other women. I think it's very easy for women to think they're alone, and especially for black women to think that they need to be strong above all else. Shine Theory allows women to take their guard down and tell other girls that they're beautiful! Tell the women around them how great they are! Rebuild a sisterhood that has been so violently ripped from us through years of conditioning women to inherently hate and regard each other as competition. The funny thing is, when you tell a woman on the street how beautiful they are they're almost always shocked. As if it's something they've never heard with sincerity from another woman, or as if they don't deserve to hear it. I'm really hoping Shine Theory can change women as a whole, globally, as corny as that sounds.
RM: Who is considered a part of the Shine Theory?
JW: I mostly focus on WoC, specifically black women. We're close to the bottom of the ladder of oppression (so to speak), and they need the most encouragement and positivity overall. That's not to say that it's exclusive to WoC, which is an annoying question I get daily. But I do think it's important, as a WoC to uplift my sisters and do what I can to make each day a little less awful with something as simple as a genuine, sincere compliment.
It should go without saying that Shine Theory applies to all women: trans women, non-binary women, young girls, gender fluid angels, whomever. It's just about sharing some positivity with the girl beside you.
RM: What does Shine Theory mean to you?
JW: Shine Theory is a revolution to me. It's about rejecting the bullshit hand we've been dealt as women. It's about turning to my sister, who you may have long regarded as competition, and saying "Hey, you are beautiful. You have worth. Thank you for shining on me by existing." You shine, I shine.
This interview has been edited for clarity.